They are staying in the upstairs bedroom, which has its own A/C unit, a large walk-in closet, and its own door to a full bathroom. This is where the man’s Grandma Hill always stayed when she came for a couple of months each year; it’s where Ned and Jolene stayed when they brought some of their kids for a visit; it’s where Granny Laws stayed when she visited to see Dad ordained a bishop. When no one was staying there, it was a great spot for hide-and-seek or for any number of games they played.
The bedroom and the office next door have windows, and those are the only ones with storm blinds–when hurricanes roll in, they have to board up the rest with plywood. The sun rise shines brightest in this room, and even with the storm blinds, the room is light early. Grandma used to paint in this room in the early hours of the day, and one of the young man’s favorites of hers is a brilliant sunrise seen from this view.
On this particular morning, the man is half-asleep but starting to be conscious of the light in the room. Lauren has an arm around him, and she squeezes him suddenly and whispers, “I think there’s someone in here.”
He stirs and cracks his eyes. “What’s that?”
“I think there’s someone in the room.”
He changes position and looks at her. “I’m sorry, what? You think there’s someone in the room?”
“Yeah. Near the bathroom.”
The man pokes his head up, looks past the foot of the bed to the bathroom door. The room is half-lit, and all he sees is the bathroom door.
“I don’t see anything.”
“I kind of don’t want to look,” she says. “You’re sure.”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
Lauren pokes her head up, tucks her brown hair behind her ear, and looks. “I guess he’s gone.”
The man takes her hand. “You think my brother was in here?”
“Definitely wasn’t your brother. Someone shorter than him. Kind of a dark complexion.”
The young man sits up, brushes her hair, and kisses her forehead. “If there was anyone, the only one it could be is Grandma Hill. She stayed up here. Loved this room. Painted up here all the time. And she was short, especially in her old age when she was stooped over.”
“Huh,” says Lauren. “I don’t know. It seemed like it was a man. And it seemed a little creepy. Not like someone you’d feel comfortable with.”
The young man shrugs. “You wanna go for a walk?”
“Sure,” she says.
Later that morning, after their walk, they are in the kitchen, the young man scrambling eggs for breakfast tacos and Lauren sitting at the table. Mom wanders in still in a nightgown.
“Good morning,” she says in a sing-song voice.
“Morning,” the man says. “Want me to throw a couple of extra eggs in for you?”
Mom shakes her head. “No, that’s okay. Not hungry yet, and I learned recently that I’m allergic to eggs.”
“Yeah? I didn’t know that. How bad?”
“Not bad. But apparently I have a sensitivity to a lot of things.” Mom sits down at the table and looks at Lauren. “You sleep okay, Lauren?”
“Yeah, I slept great. Tired from the trip, and it’s so quiet up there.”
The man looks away from the eggs for a moment to his mother. “She mostly slept great. Except for the ghost in the morning.”
“Oh?” Mom says. “We’ve never bene haunted before.”
“I was thinking about getting up to go to the bathroom, and I looked up, and there was someone standing in front of the bathroom door.”
Mom drums her fingers on the table.
“Lauren says the person was short. I figured it had to be Grandma Hill. She thought it was a man, though. Dark complexion.”
“Huh,” says Mom. “Well, I’m not sure exactly. You remember the Olsons built the house, right?”
“Yeah,” says the man. “And they moved across the street to have a smaller house, right?”
“That was the story,” says Mom. “But Wayne’s brother was mentally ill, and he stayed with them. They built that whole upstairs for him. That’s why it kind of doesn’t fit with the house.”
The man starts to shovel eggs out onto plates. “I didn’t realize that.”
“Well, anyway, his brother wound up committing suicide. And then they sold the house after that.”
The man shuts off the burner, grabs the bag of shredded cheese, and starts to spread it on the eggs. “Did he end his life in that bedroom?”
Mom shrugs. “I don’t know. We never talked about that.”
“And you never told me this growing up.”
“I didn’t see how that was relevant.”
The man walks over with the plates, hands one to Lauren, and sits down with the other. “Awesome. Now I have to sleep with one eye open.”